Thursday, 24 February 2011

Is there anything more to worry about?

I know, it's been far too long (a recurring theme with me). So much has been happening, that I barely have the energy just to survive at the moment, never mind blog on a regular basis. My son has been suffering from absolutely horrific behaviour problems-and we have finally got some help in the form of consultations with a psychologist to have him diagnosed (could just be that the Swedish health system is more switched- on than the UK's, I don't know). Things have been so tough that I have had to go to the doctors myself with pains in my arm, and yesterday I went for an ecg.

Here's the scary part: The ecg wasn't normal, the doctor said. Cue much anxiety and freaking out from me
, and phone calls to the hospital, begging to be seen earlier than the referral which the doctor said she would send off for me. Yes I know, it seems selfish, begging to be shunted forward in the queue, but I defy anybody not to do the same, given the situation. When you're at rock bottom, the only way to go is selfish-town, I'm afraid, I'm gonna finally look after number one. I'm knackered, stressed, and getting daily abuse from my son into the bargain. Depressed just isn't the word, and I have been saying the past few weeks that if there wasn't anything wrong with my heart, it would be a miracle...and now here we are. I called the hospital this morning and discovered that I have already been allocated an appointment for a stress test...on 28th March. The super-nice lady on the other end she could understand why I was worried and that if I suffer any more pains etc, I should go to the emergency department, as "they have more resources" and can do tests quicker.

It's really cheeky of me to say this, I know, but I'm going to be going there sooner rather than later so I can either put this behind me if they say nothing is wrong...or get the treatment I need....

Watch this space...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Don't piss me off by taking my pictures!

This week I had the dubious honour of one of my so-called friends, ripping off MY photos from Facebook, & sticking them on HER blog, without my permission. Compounded by the fact that she added cute little captions, as if she was the one that took them. These pictures were pictures which myself & my other half took at the Technical University here, when Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria visited. Naturally, there were lots of people who turned out to see her & her husband, Prince Daniel. My friend was also apparently there, but I didn't see her, as the place was heaving. The photos that she took aren't that great, so I guess she thought she could take ours and add them to her pictures...
Now, I'm all for people having fun and doing blogs about their lives, but what hacks me off is the fact that HER blog is about HER life, so why should it be littered with MY photos? And without permission too?
I haven't felt able to raise this with her, as she would probably be absolutely mortified if she knew she had annoyed me like that, and I don't want to cause a rift or anything. Friends are thin on the ground when you first move to a new country!
So instead, I took the opportunity to post a link on Facebook to a story on from yesterday. This story is about another Facebook picture rip-off, and the fact that doing this without someone's permission is actually against the law here.
Do you think she will take the hint? I wait with baited breath.....
Moral of the story, folks: If you think someone's pictures on Facebook are great, & you want to show others, then at least have the decency to ask them first (I would have said yes on this occasion, had she done this). Oh, and give them a picture credit too. Then you won't piss off your friends or the polis!!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Välkommen...please take a number from the machine, & for Christs sake don't try anything without a person number.

Now that I've been living here for a few months, I feel qualified to mention those weird little things about living in Sweden. The transition to the way of life over here has been relatively painless, if a little exasperating at times (see below), however so far, we're taking it all in our stride.
However, I am not naive enough to think that it will always be like this-for instance, I've heard so many horrific stories about crappy Swedish red-tape that I've not even started down the road of registering my right of residence here yet (and consequently, signing up for the language classes also). I have heard it is particularly hard for single mums (like I was until I came here) to register their child with the migration service, as Migrationsverket can never get their heads round the fact that some people just don't have another parent's wishes to take into account, because the other parent doesn't give a toss. I'll get round to it after I can't think of enough excuses not to-for now, I can travel the public transport system, buy top-ups for my phone (and call the automated voice that tells you your balance (and understand the balance) ), buy myself a sandwich (ok, that's cheating, because they are happy to let you order in English in Subway), and I even understand how much my shopping is when the checkout operator says all the numbers. So that's good enough for me for a little while.
Anyway, back to the subject, which is the odd little things that I have observed in Sweden, and nowhere else. The idiosyncracies, if you will. Most of them strange, and/or funny, some ridiculous, & the odd one disgusting. Enjoy.

1/ Let's get this one over with right away. Spitting on the street all the time. Vile! I've even seen women doing it! No matter how rough the part of Edinburgh that I used to live in was, I never saw women doing that there!! Actually, I'm wondering if Grant from Becoming Swedish (fantastic blog) can tell me how to say what he says when he sees that (I can't print it here lol). I'll be forever grateful if you can fill me in, Grant, as somehow I don't think they would tell me that when I get to SFI.

Note: Info now received from grant. Thanks mate :-) Oh, and I have already used it once-to a woman. Bleurgh.

2/ The number ticket system. This is the little machine in many shops and health centres, banks etc, which dispenses little numbered tickets. The object being that when your number comes up, you get served. It's quite good, because it means that no-one can jump the queue, even if they try, because they're not in possession of the relevant number. You do have to remember to take the ticket in the first place though.

3/ The odd habit that Swedes have, of dumping all leftover food in the kitchen sink. I've lost count of the times I have been at my partner's relatives houses, and seen half a pan of leftover spaghetti, or all manner of cruddy mess, clogging up the sink. Just a suggestion guys, but why didn't you just scrape the plates/empty the pans properly into the bin, instead of having to grab handfuls of slimy pasta out of the sink later?

4/ The little old lady's voice that tells bus passengers which street/bus stop they are coming up to next (I've no idea whether this is Sweden-wide, or just happens in this town, by the way). There is also an electronic display on the buses, with the same information displayed. I'm assuming the voice is there for the benefit of blind people, & the display for people who just don't know where they're going. Anyway, I like it, and it gives my boyfriend a good laugh when I do the voice.

5/ The personnummer thing. Like a social insurance number. Only, The Swedes take it to extremes. See, in most countries, this number would only ever be used when you call the tax office, or somewhere similar. However, The Swedes completely abuse the privilege, and use it to control and spy on everything that every citizen ever does here. For instance, I spent quite a lot of money in our local Apoteket the other day (The State-run pharmacy), and the assistant asked me if I wanted to sign up for a loyalty card. I was just about to say yes, when I thought I'd better mention I didn't have a personnummber. Well, that was it. No can do. I mean, seriously-a frickin' loyalty card???? it's not as if I am a criminal who was trying to pay with someone's stolen credit card, and she wanted to check me out. I paid cash, with my own money, and there was no good reason why I should have to tell the assistant my magic bloody number just to get a few kr off my next purchase. But like lemmings, nobody except foreigners ever questions this system. It's just "the way it is".
(Get used to hearing that phrase, by the way).

6/ The big performance which ensues, every times you want to buy something other than groceries in ICA, or a tube of hand cream from the perfume shop. For some reason there seems to be a lot of data and information required from the buyer (not the store), and various bits of paper have to be filled in and passed back & forth between the parties, with much humming & hah-ing, until finally we can depart from the store with the item. Oh for the days of walking into Sainsburys' clothing/electrical department, picking what you want off the shelf/hanger, and marching up to the till with it, the whole process taking 2 minutes.

7/ The price of just about everything in Sweden. From groceries to irons, it's scary. People here are getting diddled, that's for sure. I have spoken to several Swedish people recently, who were completely unaware of this fact, never having been to the UK. We moan that things are expensive in the UK (compared to the USA, for example), but Sweden actually makes the UK look like the USA, if that make sense. The best advice I can give any expat who comes to Sweden, is to travel home with as near to empty cases as you can get them, and fill up with your favourite foods, clothing, and medicines before you come back. You'll probably save the cost of your flight or even more-and you've had a little holiday into the bargain. Nice.

8/ The little motorised yellow carts that the posties ride around on here-it's so civilised. I can always tell when our postie is due to appear, as I hear the whirring of the cart as he or she tootles along (with a safety helmet, of course). Today I was actually standing at our open flat door when the lady came up the stairs, as my sister had sent a parcel for my birthday tomorrow, and today was the last chance it had to come without me being disappointed tomorrow morning. Parcels from home take on a huge importance when you live overseas. I explained to the postie why I was standing there all ready, and she even wished me Happy Birthday. Can anyone imagine the sullen, scruffy average British postie saying that? I think not.

By the way, my parcel came :-)

9/ The laundry system. To some, highly frustrating. To me, I actually love it! Back in the UK, we spent all our time with crispy towels that were like sandpaper after having dried naturally (we didn't have a tumble dryer), and washing cost an absolute fortune. Whereas here, the laundry facilities are included in the rent, so we can wash and dry to our heart's content, and we don't rack up a bill. Actually, our Swedish electricity for the past 3 months, was actually way less than what I paid for ONE MONTH, back home. This is clearly the exception to the "horrendous price of everything" comment I made above. A welcome one, at that! Actually, thinking about it, if they didn't have cheap leccy in Sweden, people would no doubt die, as it's so darned cold in winter!!

The laundry system actually comes with some pretty strict & unspoken rules. The main one being that on no account do you overrun your time, and eat even one minute into the next person's time. The one time that somebody did that to us, I found myself standing there tapping my feet, all the while asking my boyfriend to tell the guilty party in Swedish that we had hot food ready to be served (which we did). She won't be doing THAT again, I can tell you. Laundry rage isn't nice. And besides, WE always stick to the rules!! Rumour has it that someone actually brought out a book, full of the notes that people in Sweden have left for each other in laundry houses (because Swedes don't usually talk to each other, you know) gotta love that!

10/ What's not to like about the lady in the local bakery giving you a free kanelbulle, because it's National Kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) day? Couldn't imagine getting say, a free sausage roll from Greggs, our local bakers back home...maybe that was because it was never worth celebrating any of their products? Either that, or they were just apathetic. Anyway, the lady in the bakery put a smile on my face yesterday :-)

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Farewell, dear friend...

It was losing a follower which kicked my arse back into action after a long period of inactivity. Sorry folks. What can I say.....preparing for the imminent Swedish move (less than 7 days til blast off) left me with so little time for myself, it wasn't funny.
The flat looks like a bomb went off in a rubbish factory, we've been eating crappy food because I haven't had time to shop properly, and people have gone unwashed (i.e me).
Between all the packing, and admin (today I collected our medical records summaries from the doctor, went for an eye test & chose new glasses, managed to fit in a quick shop at Sainsburys, hoovered the flat, filled approx 6 boxes, cleared out about a zillion drawers, finding everything from smelly old teddies to strange unidentifiable bits of plastic that had dropped off various toys, had a guy in to do a kitchen worktop repair, washed dishes, washed clothes, and tried to control my extremely badly-behaved son....phew!), I feel like my head is about to explode!!
Tomorrow The Swede arrives (from Sweden, funnily enough), and I shall have to prepare him for the disaster zone that my place is, on the airport bus home. We have family coming up at the weekend from England to help take furniture away, and also I have kept stacks of things I think they might be interested in, so all that stuff is sitting around in bags also. Only because it's worth money, or useful to children in the family, or I would have been brutal and binned the lot.
To top it all off, we have seen some horrible creepy crawlies in the flat lately-mostly in my son's room. We have noticed little brown caterpillar-like things crawling along the bedroom carpet, and I know from experience in my previous flat (which also had old crapets) * just noticed I had a typo there, but am leaving it, because "crapets" is a much better wordfor them, that these are carpet beetle larvae. Lovely!! Oh it's going to be sooooo pleasant to clean this place when it's finally emptied, around Sunday-ish.
I'm making a mental note that I also need to remember to pay the lady from whom I have ordered some gorgeous cup-cakes for our family party (yes folks, as if it wasn't all enough, I'm hosting a champagne & canapes (and cupcakes!!) party for my family on Sunday. Which will be preceded by a cinema/pizza sleepover for my son and his friends the night before).
I must need my bloody head read.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Love thy neighbour.....

So I thought I would write a little about the ahem, "eclectic" assortment of people who I share the block of flats that I live in with.

Here goes: At number 8, we have a scruffy young couple who seem to think it's fun to slam the (broken) entrance doors at all hours. Oh, and let their dogs crap and pee in the stairwell too. That's when they're not at home all day by themselves, whining miserably (the dogs, not the couple). I only recently found out that the male plays rugby for Scotland, when he knocked on my door to tell me that his mad girlfriend had sold a story about him to the newspapers, & it was all rubbish. I'd like to know which of the Scotland teams he plays for, as I can't find him online anywhere. God help Scotland, if he has so little savvy he can't even consider his neighbours, that's what I say! Oh, and the mad girlfriend is back. Grrrr!!

On the same landing as that pair, we have a similar couple of annoying young people. He seems Scottish & she I think, is Spanish. Not an immediate cause of any problems you might think, but it turns out that she is even worse than her neighbour, as she likes to come home at 3am, shouting and laughing in Spanish, with no regard whatsoever for the fact that people are sleeping, and indeed I have a child to get up for school just 4 hours later. One night I got so fed up, I jumped out of bed, hurriedly unlocked the front door, and shouted up the stairwell to whichever gobshite it was to shut the f**k up. This surprisingly, drew a "F****** bitch!!" as opposed to a "Oops, sorry, we didn't realise how loud we were being!!" (which was what any decent person would have said). It was only a few weeks later when I was chatting to her boyfriend (who seems amiable enough, oddly) that I mentioned this incident, and by the look on his face, I realised it was HIS girlfriend. Well tough luck, matey!
Oh, this couple like to have noisy parties, NOT tell their guests about the broken entrance door, and then leave bottles outside their door for months at a time, also. (As well as seeming to run some kind of halfway house for various European nationalities. Don't know what that's all about! All I know is that the number of people who trot up their stairs with suitcases, gabbling away in various languages, must have their place stuffed to capacity).

Down to number 6 (under the manky dog people). This is actually the flat that I used to live in, before I found this nicer one in the same stair (couldn't be arsed to move far, and the neighbours weren't as bad then!). This is now let out to a bunch of Indian boys, who, after much griping from me, are now, on the whole, quiet little mice when they come in from their night-shifts. Groovy. One sorted, loads to go.

Across the landing from them are a bunch of Indian girls, who regularly get visits from an extremely noisy friend of theirs, who likes to leave at 4am and slam the doors on his way out (despite being shouted at). I recognised him as a person that gets on the bus every morning, when we're on the way to school, shouting constantly into his phone.
The indian girls seem nice enough, however they are clearly part of the Riverdance troup, judging by how they like to run up and down their flat and do the stomp, the second I turn my lights off to go to sleep.

Ok, now we're onto flat 5. The two cousins from Warrington. They like to come home completely rat-arsed, and try to smash their door down when they find they've locked themselves out (before failing, and passing out in the stair outside my front door for the rest of the night). Enough said about them. One of them had a black eye the other week, can't say I'm surprised.

The lady who lives at flat 3 with her son, is a perfect neighbour, can't say a bad word about her ;-)

Flat 2 contains a nice older lady who has been there even before 2001 when My Son & I moved into flat 6. She's very friendly and nice to talk to (she's quite posh), but if you happen to be in the stairwell when she opens her front door, you'd think she ran a cigarette factory. She must have a hell of a habit.

Last but not least, we have the 2 ladies who share flat 1 (underneath moi). They play rugby, and have a strange penchant for blasting Bon Jovi and Abba out at 2pm in the afternoon. Hey, whatever floats your boat. Still, would be nice to be able to actually hear my tv.....

So there you have it-a strange assortment of freaks, rude, unhygienic party animals, and a nice little genteel lady who seems to smoke a hundred a day.

Just under 3 months til my escape to Sweden...and breathe........

Sunday, 21 March 2010

My parents and Starbucks..

There is something quite stressful about taking your parents to Starbucks. Allow me to explain. For several weeks now, myself & My Son have been back from Scandinavia, and as we are back in the normal swing of things, that includes My Son's usual Saturday guitar class.

This Saturday was different. He was taking part in a concert, along with hundreds of other children, playing different instruments. We dropped him off for rehearsals at the venue beforehand, and strolled along to the nearest coffee shop, which just happened to be a Starbucks. Actually, that the nearest coffee shop was going to be a Starbucks was pretty much a certainty, as we were in a very upmarket part of town.

So in we go. My mother, being in the biggest chain of coffee shops in the world....tells me to order her a cup of tea. Ok, fine, I do that, even if I'm cringing ever so slightly as I do so. Luckily, they have a stock of teabags ready for such occasions as Mad Mothers coming in.

Then we sit down. I can't really describe how awkward my parents look, sitting on a couple of stools at the window bench, which is usually full of 30-something Tarquins in stripy scarves, tapping away on laptops. But they are the only seats free, because Pippa & Bunny & their assortment of all-terrain, 3-wheeler Bugaboo strollers are already hogging the comfy chairs (along with, I should add, their assorted offspring, all clad in stripy jumpers & coloured corduroy jeans, and bearing pretentious names like Ruaraidh & Clement).

As I bring the tray of two coffees & one tea over (plus 3 gorgeous cocoa-y biscuits with a rich chocolate filling in them as a treat for us all), I tell my mother that the milk & sugar and all the little fiddly bits are at the little counter just behind us. So up she gets, and there cometh the second faux pas, folks-she brings the milk over to our seats & "plays mother", while behind us stand a line of folks looking daggers at her for stealing the milk while they all have to stand there like fools.

Then come the biscuits-the lovely cocoa-y biscuits were not to be, sadly. My mother took one look, and decided it would go into her handbag to be given to My Son. I don't know whether it was the fact that she is trying to lose some weight, or whether she was terrified at the thought of eating a biscuit which was 75p, & simply couldn't justify it-so she didn't. Grr.
My father did the same-all the while complaining at "what a rip-0ff these places are".

Anyway, trauma over, I and my mother went to the nearest card shop to get a "well-done" card for My Son, in anticipation of a successful concert, and then we proceeded to the concert hall.

I am happy to report that My Son was a star, and did us all proud!! But please time he plays a concert....let it be near a McDonalds....or it isn't going to be good for my blood pressure.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I'm an alien.....I'm a legal alien...

Hej hej from Sweden!! Sorry it's been a long time coming, folks, but I have been busy busy up here in Norrbotten, and to be honest, completely forgot all about updating the blog (I know, never a wise move when you run a blog...I mean what's the point if you type nowt? DOH).
So we're basking in a balmy minus 17.8 degree centigrade at the moment, and the last thing The Swede said to me before he left for work this morning, was that it was currently very cold (minus 22 at that point), and that he would advise me & My Son to stay in today.
Damn. I have been very much enjoying exploring what will be our new home town in just a few short months. My Son and I have got all the important stuff sorted first-e.g the best burger joint for him (Max or Tasty Burger), and the best supermarket for Mum (aka me), so that we shall never run out of potato bread or semlor (when semlor are in season, that is).
For those of you who have never heard of semlor, it's a quite delicious confection, made from hollowing out a cardamom flavoured bun, and refilling it with almond paste, and whipped cream. Then the top is put back on. MM-mm!!! sadly, they're a limited edition kind of thing, and will be disappearing soon, but at least I tried them and can look forward to the same time next year :-D.
Tonight The Swede & I are going out for a belated Valentines dinner. I hate doing that on Valentines night itself, as it feels kind of artificial, all those couples crammed in together, with their special heart-shaped menu blah blah blah. Much better to wait a couple of days and go out for a good steak without all the bullshit, I reckon.
Swedes are in love with steaks, burgers, hot dogs, and basically all kinds of meat. I reckon life would be pretty tough for a veggie here! I've never been one to eat loads of meat (couldn't afford it anyway), but I have been shocked to see what kinds of meat are on the menu at times.
Take the argument which The Swede and I had last night because he had a horse meat sandwich for supper (bleurgh!!!). I went round the kitchen, paranoid that there were bits of it left over that I would somehow touch (I do the dishes when he's at work), and we ended up "having words" over it. I suppose I was a bit anal, but meat? I thought it was only The French that ate that stuff, and everyone EXPECTS them to do it! But not The Swedes!! Anyway, suffice to say, we've drawn a line under it now, and the wretched stuff has been confined to the freezer, to come out presumably on february 25th, after My Son and I have flown home. Yum!!